Athens grad chases dream to catch part in ‘Footloose’

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published October 5, 2011


Melanie Ullmann, a Troy Athens Class of 2009 graduate, is seizing the moment.

Dancing is her passion, and something she knows is best to do while she’s young.

So right after graduation, Ullmann moved to Atlanta to pursue her dream of dancing professionally.

Melanie Ullmann, an Athens Class of 2009 grad, spends her time in Los Angeles taking dance classes, working a restaurant job
and going on auditions.


She said it was hard to leave her childhood friends and opt out of college, although she did well at Athens and had been accepted into her colleges of choice.

“I felt it was important to do this now and be happy with this now,” she said. “My goals will change along the line. But this is something I have to take advantage of.”

Her hard work and initiative paid off. She signed on with the Bloc Agency, which sent her on auditions for the movies “Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son,” and “Footloose.”

In Atlanta — as one of 400 auditioning there, along with 800 in Los Angeles — she was cast in the movie “Footloose,” which debuts in the Detroit area this week.

When she went on the audition, Ullmann said, she quelled her nerves by thinking of it as a free class.

Her family, including grandmother Lois Drake and mother Renee Ullmann, planned to attend a VIP movie premiere at Emagine in Royal Oak this week. Ullmann appears in two scenes: the Western bar scene, where she “freestyles” during a line dance, and the prom scene, where she dances next to the two stars, Julianne Hought and Kenny Womald. Ullmann wears a light-blue dress and freestyles on the balcony.

She was cast in a smaller part in “Big Mommas,” in a cafeteria scene, and her dance crew, “Stilettos,” almost made it onto MTV’s “America’s Best Dance Crew,” but got cut.

Ullmann’s been dancing since she was 4 years old. She studied locally at Juliana’s Academy of Dance in Madison Heights and danced on the Athens dance team, for which she served as captain. She estimates she was dancing about 40 hours per week at one point.

Her grandmother credits her training at Juliana’s for giving her the “grit” to leave her friends and family to pursue her passion.

“When she went to auditions, she knew what to expect. She’s so determined and focused,” Drake said.

Ullmann explained that a dance teacher at Juliana’s took her and four other dancers to Los Angeles when Ullmann was in ninth-grade to show the dancers “what’s out there, if we were serious.”

She left Atlanta for Los Angeles seven months ago and signed on with the McDonald Selznick Associates talent agency. She also works in the business office at Millennium Dance Complex, where noted dancers and choreographers practice, in order to take free, unlimited classes there.

She’s already made what she describes as “lifelong” friends in Los Angeles.

“There’s so many people here with strong passions, striving for their dreams. We share so much,” Ullmann said. “I’m training with some of the most amazing people.”

She also works at a restaurant while she continues to go on auditions.

“I never know until that week about an audition,” she explained. “I’m not sure what’s coming up.”

She hopes to dance and choreograph into her 30s.

“I want to take advantage of these opportunities and what’s happening now,” she said. “I can’t do that in years to come. I can always go back to college, but dancing will always be in my life somehow.”